Pedagogical wellness integrates evidence-based wellness strategies into teaching and learning environments to support the health and well-being of faculty and students. In other words, we can incorporate strategies to connect our teaching with wellbeing, both for ourselves as faculty and for our students. While the Pandemic made us more aware than ever about the need for grace and understanding in the classroom, post-pandemic higher education continues to need flexibility, albeit with limits.
So, how do we remain flexible in the classroom without giving up student learning outcomes or rigor? Here are strategies you can implement in your teaching to promote pedagogical wellness:
- Eliminate penalties for missing deadlines. Some of us don’t call them deadlines anymore, we call them best-by dates, and we use them to keep students on track. If a student misses an assignment, they can always submit it later as long as it is before the end of the semester. We do not need to figure out why the student might need an extension. We should be focusing on how to accommodate extensions when requested. This keeps the responsibility squarely on the students, and removes faculty responsibility to constantly police deadlines and assess the merit of extensions.
- Make use of online education. Despite the fact that online education and video instruction have been around for decades, a stigma of it as a less-than educational experience still exists. Good online instruction can have the same or better outcomes than in-person instruction. Furthermore, for lectures, online education has actually been shown to have better outcomes due to the ability to pause and rewatch content. . Posting at least part of your course content, whether it be lectures, slides, notes, etc. is a smart pedagogical choice that increases flexibility for students and offers faculty a scaffolding approach to achieving course outcomes.
- Hold online office hours. While some students want face-to-face time with their instructors, seldom do many students take that opportunity. It’s not uncommon to see only one or two students during office hours, or none at all. Online office hours allow access to students that might otherwise not attend them. Students who live far from campus, students with mobility-related disabilities, or students who have jobs or caregiving responsibilities might find it difficult to make an extra trip to campus to come to office hours. These barriers are removed when office hours are online. Not only is this flexible for students, but makes it more convenient for faculty who are able to make better use of their time.
- Consider moving away from high stakes assignments. High stakes assignments are those that a student must pass in order to pass the course. Not only are these types of assignments very stressful for students, they also lead to cheating as some students see no other choices. You can still assess the same amount of content using strategies that avoid high stakes. For example, instead of a midterm and final exam, break your exams up into weekly or bi-weekly quizzes. Rather than one large project with 50% of a student’s grade, ask students to turn in pieces of the project over the course of the semester and grade them separately. Using strategies such as these not only reduces student anxiety or assignments, it also spreads the need for grading more evenly over the semester.